Organizational Leadership News & Views

Traits of successful relationships between leaders and followers

  • Alvernia MOL

Within organizations, the relationship between leaders and followers is absolutely vital.

When the dynamic between the follower and the leaders is one of support and mutual benefit, much will be achieved. They both need each other and need to work together to accomplish the tasks and goals of the organization. It’s often said that to be a good leader requires being a good follower.

Here are some of the attributes of successful relationships between leaders and followers.

Trust is vital to both leadership and followership. Leaders must be able to trust their followers will carry through on their tasks and followers must trust that their leaders will do the right thing. By being conscious of their actions, both leaders and followers can establish trust. Transparency and competency are characteristics often associated with trustworthiness.

Followers are looking for authenticity from their leaders and vice-versa. Authentic leaders are individuals who are acutely self-aware, ethical and balanced in the way they gather information and make decisions, according to the book “The Art of Followership: How Great Followers Create Great Leaders and Organizations.” Authentic followership is influenced by authentic leadership. Engagement between authentic leaders and followers can produce higher levels of self-regulation and positive developmental outcomes. For example, followers can develop a greater sense of ownership in work and objectives and trust for their leaders and organizations.

Leaders are judged by their boldness, confidence and ability to make tough decisions. However, followers don’t need to just stand by while leaders are taking care of the dirty work. Followers have major responsibilities also. In a Fast Company article, Barbara Kellerman, author of “Followership: How Followers are Creating Change and Changing Leaders,” is quoted as saying:

“Being a good follower is complicated in ways that are rather similar to being a good leader. It means being engaged. It means paying attention. It means having the courage to speak up when something’s wrong and it means having the energy and activism to support a leader or manager who’s doing things wisely and well.”

Followers and leaders show courage by communicating openly, taking action when needed and holding themselves accountable for modeling the behaviors they expect of others.

Followers and leaders alike develop by learning to read people and understanding what motivates them.

Many of the attributes of effective leader-follower relationships stem from support for each other and their organization. Considering each other’s needs, showing care and empathy and working together to create a productive and friendly environment are ways leaders and followers are supportive.

The Masters in Organizational Leadership (MOL) program at Alvernia University in Reading, PA offers lessons on how leaders and followers can inspire each other, as well as develop trust, authenticity, courageousness, and support. The curriculum for this program is designed so that the faculty work with four to six students as part of a coaching/mentoring team which remains together for the duration of the program. Along with working together on different team projects, each team member also holds leadership and followership roles which helps them understand that dynamic in practice.

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